HOUSTON -- Brittney Griner may be the greatest women's basketball player of this generation, but she never played organized basketball in middle school.
"Brittney did attend the feeder schools that go into Nimitz but she did not play basketball in middle school," said Griner's high school basketball coach Debbie Jackson. "It was during volleyball season a player came up to me and said, 'Hey Coach Jackson you need to go watch the volleyball team play because they have pretty tall freshmen playing on the freshmen team.' I went to Brittney and said, Brittney when the volleyball season is over I'd really like you to think about coming out for basketball. And so she came out and it was kind of love at first sight."
It was a time in Houston when there was a lot of talent in the area.
"Didn't really even notice her playing, just noticed we had another tall post player which was pretty common in Houston area girls basketball," said Houston Chronicle Assistant Sports Editor Jenny Dial Creech who covered Griner while she was at Nimitz. "It seemed like we really had a span of several that came through year after year. And I thought, oh, I should keep an eye on her. The next week called her coach, Coach Jackson and she said, you know she can dunk, you should come by practice one day. And I thought, okay, that'd be cool. A couple camera crews came out, pretty soon that was on YouTube and just like that everyone has heard of her."
Griner was a YouTube sensation, which started to create national buzz. Especially in a city that just had its WNBA franchise fold.
"They wanted women's basketball back. Even to have this 16 year-old girl just north of town doing this was something for people to get excited about," said Dial Creech.
"We would have a lot of coaches come in to watch practice in the fall," said Jackson. "I can remember the first time they'd see her dunk during a practice, you'd immediately see 20 cell phones come out and you'd see them punching in a number talking to their assistant or whomever about we just saw this kid dunk, she really can dunk."
Her recruitment didn't last long. Griner verbally committed to Baylor the summer before her junior year.
"She called me up and said I just got back from the Baylor camp and I verbally committed to Baylor. I said, 'what?' I said, 'Baylor's a great program and I have no problem with you going to Baylor but do you not want to look around, compare, just to solidify that you've made the right decision,'" said Jackson. She had always wanted to go to Tennessee, she used to have a Tennessee sweatshirt she used to wear around. She said, 'coach, I thought about it. I don't want to be that far away from home like Tennessee or whatever.' She goes, 'I feel really good about it.'"
"I didn't feel like she was going to waiver," said Dial Creech. "Really, she was focused on trying to get to state and win state despite all the attention around her."
Nimitz made it to the state tournament Griner's senior year, but fell short in the championship game.
"That's probably one of our greatest disappointments," said Jackson. "In fact I have never watched the tape of that game because it just is a killer. That was probably the worst game we played the entire season."
"I think the Mansfield team that beat them just maybe had a little bit of a better plan," said Dial Creech. "That coach just really studied Griner. It was one of the best double teams to this day I've ever seem on her."
Griner ended her senior season averaging nearly a triple-double in points, rebounds and blocks. She also dunked 52 times in 32 games. Griner was off to Baylor after an impressive senior season but no state title.